Other efforts needed
Despite the positive response to the SME Go Digital programme, more needs to be done to help SMEs thrive in the future economy. "The measures to strengthen SMEs capability to innovate is a good start and builds on the strength of our agencies. However this is only the beginning as many SMEs are only commencing their innovation journey. They will need even more help along the way to navigate issues such as working with innovation partners, protecting their intellectual property and commercialising their ideas. SMEs should look to schemes such as the Capability Development Grant and R&D tax incentives to fund their innovation projects," Harvey Koenig, Tax Partner at KPMG in Singapore, said.
To further support the growth of local businesses, the Singapore government will inject up to S$600 million in government capital for a new International Partnership Fund. The fund will co-invest with Singapore-based firms to help them scale-up and internationalise.
Tan Bin Eng, Partner, Business Incentives Advisory, Ernst & Young Solutions, believes that move is vital. "The measures to deepen our partnerships internationally and enhance capabilities and international exposure will be widely appreciated. Given the diverse region Singapore is in and the growth opportunities ASEAN presents, fostering a close and deep understanding of the region is imperative. The extension of the global innovation alliance will allow Singaporeans to build an international mindset through greater international exposure from early on," she said.
Naveen Bhat, Managing Director, Ixia, Asia Pacific, suggests two more things that the government can do to help SMEs be ready for the digital economy. "One is to set up tiger teams or task forces who can kick-start Go Digital programmes in each SME. Secondly, some sort of a penalty could be applied to SME who show no Go Digital initiatives in the next six months. The penalty could be associated with inferior network security posture. A security breach at the SME could make news and could be potentially embarrassing for the country."
Besides relying on the government, SMEs themselves "should also step up their efforts to ensure that employees are well-equipped to embrace the open and connected economy of the future," said HyunWook Cho, Singapore Country Manager, Qoo10.
"SMEs can leverage technology to transform how they work, which involves paying attention to generational shifts, nurturing an open talent economy, pushing for diversity and inclusion, and adopting a 'business beyond bias' mentality," Darren Rushworth, Managing Director, SAP Singapore, added.
Preparing Singapore workers for the future digital economy
Besides implementing the right technology, having a skilled workforce is necessary in order to compete and survive in the future economy.
The government will thus continue to encourage Singaporeans to utilise SkillsFuture to upgrade their skills.
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